Free Liu Xiaobo

I am very honoured to have been asked by the international literature festival berlin (ilb) to take part in a worldwide reading for the Chinese writer and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize Liu Xiaobo, on March 20. Please let me know if you have a venue where I could read some of Liu’s work, it’s for a heart breaking cause ♥

Liu Xiaobo has been in detention for more than three years, after he and other intellectuals wrote and published the civil rights manifesto Charter 08. The worldwide reading in March is meant to make Liu Xiaobo’s work known to a broader public and to back the protest.

The appeal has been signed so far by Héctor Abad (Columbia), Kwame Anthony Appiah (USA), Amir Hassan Cheheltan (Iran), Noam Chomsky (USA), Bei Dao (China), Ariel Dorfman (Chile), Péter Esterházy (Hungary), Aminatta Forna (U.K., Sierra Leone), Juan Goytisolo (Spain/ Morocco), Herta Müller (Romania/Germany), Amos Oz (Israel), Laura Restrepo (Columbia), Henrietta Rose-Innes (South Africa), Salman Rushdie (India/ USA), Tomaž Šalamun (Slovenia), Peter Schneider (Germany), Sjón (Iceland), Janne Teller (Denmark), Dubravka Ugrešić (Croatia/Netherlands), Anne Waldman (USA) and many other writers from all continents.

Three years ago, Liu was taken from his Beijing home and arrested. He waited more than 12 months to receive a formal sentence – 11 years of imprisonment for “inciting subversion of state power.” After the announcement of Liu’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize last year, the Chinese authorities put his wife, Liu Xia, a poet and photographer, under strict house arrest. She vanished from the private and public sphere on October 18, 2010, and to this day no one can reach her, either through phone, cell or internet. Liu Xiaobo was imprisoned three times before his last arrest in 2008. While serving his three years of “Reeducation through labor” between 1996 and 1999, he wrote many poems in prison, all dedicated to his wife Liu Xia.

As a young man, Liu devoured books on western and Chinese philosophy and literature, and this experience is strongly reflected in his lyrical writing. From Confucius to Kant, from Sima Qian to Van Gogh or Jesus, for young Liu Xiaobo, knowledge had no borders. As a proliferate writer, his writing has influenced generations of young people in China since the 1980s. When his articles and books were banned and censored in mainland China, he began submitting his writings to overseas Chinese websites. His books have been published in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the USA. Liu’s explosive and lyrical style, marked by its razor sharp criticisms and pervasive irony, has cooled down in recent years and transformed into more thoughtful and objective prose. He changed his role from an agitated activist to an observer and analyst.

Mimicking the form of Czechoslovakia’s Charter 77, Liu Xiaobo and his Chinese colleagues selected a rational and peaceful way to express their concern for China’s future development through their own manifesto, Charter 08.

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